Many of the new video-tech tools are delivering the latest premium viewing experience (Ultra HDTV) to consumers mainly in developed economies. You’d be forgiven for assuming that the latest compression technologies’ sole purpose is to enable the delivery of UHD video to high-end TV displays. This application of the new technology gets all the attention, but it downplays how the new tools can be used to create broadcast efficiencies.
India’s DTH satellite TV service is a perfect example. The Indian DTH satellite TV industry serves more than 60 million subscribers, having only begun in 2003 with a single service that delivered relatively low-cost digital TV service to households. Satellite service providers (now numbering six services) were quick to switch to the more efficient AVC video compression standard over the older MPEG-2 standard. That adoption was driven by a desire to use the most efficient compression for encoding standard definition programs, not to bring the latest HD pictures to their customers.
And now Indian service providers are once again taking a compression tool that has been mainly marketed for creating premium and higher-cost services and using it to lower transmission costs and increase capacity—and deliver low-cost services. For service providers selling low-cost TV subscriptions, every bit it can squeeze to keep its satellite transponder costs down is critical.
There is some HD and UHD content available with select services, but overall the emphasis is to offer affordable packages, as well as HD services for those households that want a premium-service choice.
The four leading Indian operators—DISH, Videocon, Bharti Airtel and Tata Sky—are now all using HEVC compression for both HD and SD programming (there is an UHD offering, too). India presents unique challenges in terms of the number of local channels available across the vast region, and HEVC compression has proven to be critical in terms of delivering these channels, most of which are standard definition.
With SD services come basic and lower-priced STBs, further lowering costs and appealing to subscribers who are limited in their discretionary spending. For example, some of the satellite companies have rolled out STBs based on SoCs (systems-on-chips) from Ali Tech that are considerably lower cost than using HEVC-decoding SoCs from more established market leaders concentrating on the high-end market.
While new, high-end UHD services are getting all the attention, TV service providers in developing markets are quietly using the latest compression technology to bolster their lower-end offerings.